First of all, I am sure the whole House will want to join me in sending our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, who died in Afghanistan on Saturday afternoon. As we come closer to Remembrance Sunday, we recognise that we owe him and all who have given their lives in the service of our country, and indeed everyone who has served in our armed forces, an immeasurable debt of gratitude.
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the European Council held in Brussels last Thursday and Friday. The Copenhagen climate change conference, for which the European Council was preparing, is now less than 40 days away. If carbon emissions are to be reduced and dangerous climate change averted, it is essential that we achieve an ambitious, comprehensive and binding agreement. Concluding a climate change deal will also drive investment in the low-carbon economy and speed up world economic recovery. It will demonstrate that, as at the G20, the world can come together to address the great global challenges that we face together.
In all of this, European Union leadership is fundamental, and now, as we approach Copenhagen, we need to drive forward the negotiations. Let me explain the urgency: to achieve the ambitious, effective and fair deal we need, it is not only developed countries which must act; developing countries too must cut their emissions, reduce deforestation and be able to adapt to climate change. However, to enable them to make an offer by December, we as a European Union and as developed countries need to make a credible offer of financial assistance to them now. That is why earlier this year I proposed a long-term financial agreement between developed and developing countries. On Friday last week the European Council agreed to put on the table for Copenhagen three conditional offers. First, we agreed that Europe will contribute its fair share of the costs of mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, and we endorsed the European Commission view that these are expected to require—including the developing countries’ own contributions—around £100 billion of private and public finance annually by 2020.
Secondly, we set out our offer of public finance, agreeing that the overall level of the international public support required to make sure that a Copenhagen deal would benefit developing countries is estimated to lie in the range of €22 billion to €50 billion per year by 2020.
Thirdly, we agreed that we should start support immediately to help developing countries cut carbon emissions and adapt to climate change, contributing over the next three years, as a European Union, our fair share of a global fast-track initiative of €5 billion to €7 billion per year.
These offers are rightly conditional on
“other key players making comparable efforts”,
and on developing countries coming forward with substantial commitments on emissions reductions. Importantly, the Council also agreed that climate financing should
“not undermine or jeopardize the fight against poverty and continued progress towards the Millennium Development Goals”,
and as the United Kingdom has proposed, the Council supported the establishment of a high-level body under the United Nations to provide an overview of international sources of climate financing.
The European Union has already committed to cut our emissions by 30 per cent. on 1990 levels by 2020 as part of the right international agreement. Now these financial offers yet again show the determination of the whole European Union to ensure an ambitious climate change deal in Copenhagen.
I can also report that the Council agreed that at the time of the next accession treaty, the protocol on the charter of fundamental rights will be applied to the Czech Republic. The next step is for the Czech constitutional court to make its ruling, which is rightly a matter for that court. I believe that we have made real progress, but it is only after we are sure that the treaty will come into force that a new European Commission will be appointed and the Council will be able to appoint its new president.
Investment across Europe is forecast to contract by 10 per cent. this year with an expected loss of 8.5 million jobs. So at the European Council we had to decide first whether we should withdraw the fiscal stimulus now or maintain it until recovery was secured. We agreed unanimously—with no country dissenting—that
“the supporting policies should not be withdrawn until the recovery is fully secured.”
Secondly, we had to decide whether to support public investment to maintain jobs in our economy or simply to let the recession take its course. The Council agreed unanimously to draw up a
“European strategy for jobs and growth”
“continued political commitment to active labour market policies”.
We also agreed to take all necessary measures to
“prevent high unemployment levels from becoming persistent.”
Thirdly, within our commitment to action for fiscal sustainability once the recovery is assured, we also agreed on the need for active industrial strategies to ensure
“investment in the industries and jobs of the future”,
including low-carbon technologies, advanced manufacturing and the digital economy.
We stressed the importance of new measures that would
“strengthen the internal market”
and help growth in our services as well as our industries, and we affirmed the need to
“promote increased trade”.
In addition to the completion of the Doha trade round next year, progress on bilateral trade deals and the recent trade agreement with Korea will create up to €20 billion in new export opportunities for firms across the European Union.
We also agreed on reform of our banking systems, which includes putting in place new rules on capital and liquidity and bonuses. We also agreed to the continuation of work to strengthen the supervisory framework in the European Union, following the decisions taken at the Council in June.
The Council also expressed its deep condolences to the families of those killed in last week’s Taliban attack in Kabul. We reaffirmed our determination to fight terrorism in every part of the world and our resolve to see our commitments through in Afghanistan. And we emphasised our
“confidence in the United Nations’ leadership in coordinating the international community’s efforts”.
We welcomed plans to
“strengthen the civilian capacity of the state institutions in Afghanistan and Pakistan”—
something that has been at the heart of British efforts in recent years. And the European Council expressed its concern about the security situation in Pakistan and reiterated Europe’s readiness to assist further the displaced members of the Pakistan population.
This afternoon, I have spoken to President Karzai and discussed the importance of moving quickly to set out a unity programme for the future governance of Afghanistan. Afghanistan now needs new and urgent measures for tackling corruption, strengthening local government and reaching out to all parts of Afghan society, and to give the Afghan people a real stake in their future. President Karzai agreed with me that Afghanistan now needs to strengthen its army and police numbers so that over time we can reduce the number of British troops.
Finally on Iran, the Council expressed its
“continuing concern about the situation of staff members of European Union missions and European citizens in Iran who recently have been on trial”
and called, in support of our efforts, for
“their prompt and unconditional release”.
We reaffirmed our
“grave concern over the development of Iran’s nuclear programme”
and over Iran’s
“persistent failure to meet its international obligations.”
Once again, we have shown that by acting not alone but together, by working not against our mainstream European partners, but with them, and by putting Britain not on the fringes of Europe, but at the heart of Europe, Britain will be stronger, and Europe and Britain will be better off for that.
May I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, killed in Afghanistan at the weekend? We owe a debt of gratitude to him and his family that we must never forget.
In Afghanistan, now that Hamid Karzai has been confirmed as President, will the Prime Minister ensure that our support for the Karzai Government is not a blank cheque, but is contingent on serious progress being made on tackling corruption and upholding the rule of law? I want to ask the Prime Minister about the three main issues that were raised at the summit, climate change, the economy and the Lisbon treaty, and of course the two words that did not pass his lips—Tony Blair—because I cannot believe that the Prime Minister did not mention the one issue that seemed to be discussed wherever the leaders met: who should be the president of Europe. When considering his efforts to get Tony Blair the job, will most people in Britain not feel that it is completely unacceptable to see an unelected Prime Minister pushing for an unelected president, under a treaty that no one was allowed to vote for?
Climate change is an area where the EU has a vital role to play. Will the Prime Minister confirm that it already has the powers that it needs to do so? There is nothing in the Lisbon treaty that adds anything to the EU’s ability in this area. We welcome the commitments on carbon reductions, which were repeated at the summit, and the agreement on the €100 billion climate change fund. However, is it not the case that, despite that headline figure, there was no agreement on which European countries should pay what or by when, and that there was no firm commitment on the financial help to be given in the vital first three years after an agreement at Copenhagen is signed? The Swedish Prime Minister seemed to say that the European contributions would only be voluntary. Can the Prime Minister explain what that meant?
Next, on the economy, the Prime Minister said at his press conference that there was a target of 10 million new jobs in Europe by 2014. Yet is it not the case that unemployment in the UK is now higher than it was in 1997, that 5 million people are on out-of-work benefits and that we have practically the highest youth unemployment in Europe? When he looked across the table at other EU leaders, did he recall that Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, France and Germany have already come out of recession, while Britain is still stuck in recession?
Last Wednesday the Prime Minister said in this House:
“We always said that we would come out of recession by the end of this year.”—[Official Report, 28 October 2009; Vol. 498, c. 278.]
That simply is not right. The forecast last autumn was for recovery in July. This June he said that Britain was
“leading the rest of the world…out of recession.”—[Official Report, 3 June 2009; Vol. 493, c. 268.]
Will he now confirm that he got it completely wrong? While we are still in recession and other countries in the EU grow, will he also confirm that we are forecast to have practically the highest budget deficit in the whole of Europe next year?
The summit conclusions endorse the ECOFIN statement that some countries should start to rebuild their public finances before 2011. As we are forecast to have the largest deficit in the whole of the OECD next year, should that not include us? Is it not the height of irresponsibility to sit there, as the leader of a lame duck Government with deteriorating public finances, making pledge after pledge of further public spending and never saying anything about how he would deal with the crisis that he has created?
The third issue is Lisbon and whether Europe needs a president. Does this debate not tell people all that they need to know about this Government? On the one hand, the Government went round saying that the treaty was just a tidying-up exercise, that there was no threat to national sovereignty and that the constitutional principle had been abandoned. But on the other, now we see the Prime Minister using all his offices to try to foist on Europe an executive president, with every intention of maximising the power of this new office. Is it not the case that the Government have not been straight on the treaty from start to finish?
The only silver lining is that the bid to make Tony Blair president seems to have got into a bit of difficulty. Just a few days ago it was all going so well—
Who is my candidate? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman—never someone to go naked into the conference chamber.
It was all going so well. As the Prime Minister left for Brussels, one British official was quoted as saying:
“Tony Blair is the ideal candidate and he has a lot of support from all quarters…It is hard to see how he can be stopped.”
Shortly afterwards, the Prime Minister gave Tony Blair his personal backing. He threw the weight of the Government spin machine behind the Blair campaign. He broke into his schedule to appear before the Party of European Socialists. He told them all to “get real” and back Tony Blair. Ever since then, Tony Blair’s campaign has been in free fall. Does that not demonstrate an eternal truth in British politics: that no cause is truly hopeless until it is endorsed by this Prime Minister?
Once again, not one policy from the Opposition—it is all about personalities, never anything about policy. Let us first turn to Afghanistan. I did say earlier that I had talked to President Karzai and I did say to him that it was absolutely essential that he brought forward a unity programme that would include tackling corruption, strengthening the anti-corruption commission and taking action in individual areas, as well as bringing forward measures to strengthen local government. Of course, it is also important to us to build up the army from 90,000 now to 135,000 and to build up the police force, which is under 100,000 at the moment but is not sufficiently effective. So we have made the offer of further troops in Afghanistan conditional on Afghanistan showing that it can deal with its problems by making available new forces to be trained. At the same time, we await the decisions that will be made in other capitals about their contribution to the next stage of Afghanisation, which is increasing the number of Afghan troops but allowing them to be trained by forces from Britain and other countries.
I am also grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said about climate change. It is absolutely essential that we come together to make sure that we have a deal at Copenhagen, but European leadership and European unity in this are absolutely crucial. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the 2020 deal was a voluntary one. No, it is not. What is voluntary is the fast-track offer, which is the offer for the first three years according to which different European countries will choose to make their own contributions. But, again, a deal at Copenhagen is possible on finance only because Europe, as a European Union, has led the way in making that finance available.
When it comes to the economy, I just have to say that the Government support fiscal action continuing. The right hon. Gentleman’s party wants to withdraw the fiscal stimulus; I found no support in any country in Europe for withdrawing the fiscal stimulus now. His party has refused to back direct action using Government funds against unemployment; I found no party in Europe supporting that action either. His party, of course, has rejected many of the proposals that we have brought forward to deal with the recession; I find support for what we are doing in Europe, not support for the Conservative position.
The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the Lisbon treaty and its ratification. We know the position of the Conservative party. Its leader said:
“I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.”
That is the position of the Conservative party—[Interruption.]
Whenever the word “Europe” is mentioned, the Opposition seem to become both extreme and wild in the actions that they take.
The right hon. Gentleman is demanding a referendum on Lisbon. He is also—I see Back Benchers nodding, but not the Leader of the Opposition—demanding withdrawal from the social chapter and from European Union employment legislation, for which he would need the agreement of every one of the 26 other countries in the European Union. When the challenge is actually to secure growth, a climate change agreement and greater security from the European Union, is it going to be the best use of British influence to fight yesterday’s battles the minute that the European Union has moved on from them when there is so much that we have to do to promote jobs, growth and trade? Is it really in the British national interest for the Conservative party to leave aside the alliances that it has had for years with the Christian Democrats in Germany and with President Sarkozy’s party in France and to go into an alliance with a small group on the far right of Europe? The only reason the Conservatives are doing that is not in the national interest; they are putting their own party interests first and letting Euroscepticism take over their party. If they had really changed, they would have changed on Europe, and just as they are wrong on the recession, they are wrong on Europe as well.
I should like to thank the Prime Minister for his statement and, of course, join him in sending expressions of sympathy and condolence to the family and friends of Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, who tragically lost his life in Afghanistan this week.
On Afghanistan, I note that the Prime Minister has already called President Karzai to congratulate him today on his unopposed continuation as president of that country, but surely the Prime Minister must recognise that Karzai simply cannot lead the dramatic change in direction that Afghanistan needs unless he commits now to work with his opponents, including Dr. Abdullah, to reach across ethnic and tribal divisions, stamp out corruption and start to build the legitimate institutions of central Government that Afghanistan so desperately lacks. The only way to do that is to commit now to a Government of national unity, and not the vaguer “unity programme” to which the Prime Minister just referred. What pressure are the Government bringing to bear on the Karzai Administration to make that happen? Or is the Prime Minister going to ignore the lack of legitimacy of the Karzai presidency and so risk failure for our brave troops as they try to prop up a Government in whom no one believes?
Turning to the rest of the weekend’s summit, the event was remarkable for two reasons: first, the discussion of the historic negotiations to be held in Copenhagen; secondly, the Government’s misguided attempt to install Tony Blair as president of Europe. On Copenhagen, I welcome in principle the agreement on a funding package to help developing countries to fight climate change, but does the Prime Minister not see that the European Union’s leadership in this area is in jeopardy while he and other leaders remain silent on how the cost of those proposals for adaptation and mitigation will be met in practice? What consideration has he given, for instance, to funding these commitments, in whole or in part, through a tradeable levy on maritime and aviation fuels? Is it not time we asked the aviation and shipping industries, which currently remain outside any international carbon fuel levy system, to pay for the damage that they cause to our environment by asking them to help to fund the fight against climate change in the developing world?
On the second issue, I congratulate the Prime Minister on what turns out to have been a very cunning plan indeed to block the career aspirations of his predecessor. Does he agree, however, that the outcome of the discussions on Tony Blair has been to strengthen Britain’s hand in arguing for the position that we should have been lobbying for in the first place—that of the High Representative? The president will be a glorified chairman, without his own resources, like an admiral without a navy, but the High Representative will have real powers—a general with troops, by comparison. So will the Prime Minister confirm that that is the job that we are now aiming for? Will he also give us an indication of who he would like to see in the role? We all know that he is pushing the right hon. Member for South Shields (David Miliband), but will he also look beyond his party ranks for other candidates—[Hon. Members: “Hurrah!”] No, no, no—that is for another day. I meant other candidates such as Lord Patten, who I am sure would be welcome on these Benches, or indeed Lord Ashdown.
The Prime Minister referred to the summit’s deliberations on banking. When I asked him a couple of weeks ago, he refused even to contemplate splitting up the banks, yet it is now clear that the European Commission is driving forward a process to break them up. Will he explain why, if he is willing to hive off huge divisions of the banks at the behest of Europe, he will not go the whole way and separate retail and investment banking completely? Why will he not split up the banks in the only way that would protect the public interest for good?
I do not think that there has ever been a more public application for a European job than what we have heard this afternoon. I could see the sense of opportunity in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman’s colleagues as they thought about his future prospects.
On climate change, we have done more than any continent in the world to put forward proposals to sort out a major problem that has to be addressed—the financing gap. If developing countries are to be persuaded to make their use of energy more efficient, and if they are to be given help to deal with adaptation, it is essential that we put an offer on the table. So Europe has done three things: it has put an offer on the table relating to the overall funding required; it has now said what the public amount of that money would be; and it has said that it will be engaged in giving fast-track financing. So the process would start even before the new treaty would come in. We have also made it clear that Europe would pay its fair share of that money. We are therefore further on in pushing this forward than any other continent. We need other continents to respond to this but, most of all, we put this offer last week because we want the developing countries to consider what offers they can make to reduce their carbon emissions by the time they get to Copenhagen. Europe has taken the lead on this matter, and while the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to do more, he would be right if he said that Europe had taken the first steps towards the necessary financial agreement.
On Afghanistan, I made it clear while talking to President Karzai twice this weekend that we are expecting him to take strong action on tackling corruption in his own country. This is what Afghanistan is about: it is not simply a country that requires national Government; it requires good effective local government and good provincial and district governors, and we expect the appointments of those people to be in line with the needs of the country. That includes tackling corruption and getting the economy and social facilities moving. For us, it is also crucial that the Afghan Government agree to train more troops and more police. The way that we will be able to deliver greater security to the Afghan people, to prevent a Taliban Government from returning to power and to prevent al-Qaeda from having a greater foothold in the country is by building up the strength of the Afghan forces.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that these messages to President Karzai are very clear. He will, of course, make a speech tomorrow and then there will be his inauguration address. I hope that what we have asked him to do and what he has agreed to do—it is also what he wants to do—will be included in that address.
As far as the European Council is concerned, let me be absolutely clear. The Lisbon treaty is not yet ratified. When it is ratified there will have to be a meeting of the European Council, and only at that stage will decisions be made about either the presidency of the Council or the future of the Commission. Unlike some Conservative Members, I hope that the Czech Government will be able to ratify the treaty very soon. I hope that we can see a decision from the Czech constitutional court tomorrow, and were that to be the case, I would expect ratification to proceed very soon afterwards. We will then be able to make decisions on these important positions in the European Union as soon as possible. It is not in anybody’s interest to have no Commission re-nominated for the future; we will be electing a president of the Council for the first time.
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on a generally very satisfactory outcome to the European Council’s meetings, and may I press him on Afghanistan? How are we going to eliminate corruption there as long as the President—and particularly his brother in Kandahar—remain in office? It is difficult, I know, but this has to be confronted one way or another.
I agree with my hon. Friend, who has taken a big interest in this matter. It is very important to appoint district and provincial governors who will take action to build up facilities in health, education and schools in the areas for which they are responsible, but it is also important to prevent drug barons and those who would practise corrupt activities from either seizing power or influencing those who have power. Therefore, part of the programme for Afghanistan must be to match anti-corruption activity at the centre with ensuring that local government is in the hands of those who are responsible to the people and not connected to the country’s drug overlords.
The right hon. Gentleman knows the G20 decision on this matter, which is that bonuses can be earned, but only over a three-year period and subject to clawback and to being paid not in cash, but in shares. Those are the issues that we are now debating with the banks in Britain.
Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us who are in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty before it is signed intend to remain in favour of a referendum on it even if it is signed? Does he agree that those who capitulate and decide to change their position simply because the treaty has been signed are, in fact, betraying not only their own principles but the policies of the British people?
Does the Prime Minister recall that at the start of the reform process European leaders were instructed to create a Europe closer to its citizens. Does he think that the spectacle of EU Heads of Government engaging in private bargaining sessions to hand out between themselves the unelected jobs in Europe is more likely to increase or to diminish the public’s respect for the European Union? Which is it?
We know where the right hon. Gentleman comes from; he is against the European Union altogether. I have to tell him that at the formal sessions, which lasted many hours, we discussed jobs, we discussed growth, we discussed climate change and we discussed foreign policy issues. What the right hon. Gentleman suggests was being discussed in the corridors was not discussed in the Council. We discussed the issues that matter to the people of Europe.
I warmly welcome the outcome of the Council’s discussions on climate change, and the clear lead that it has given. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend’s contribution. The funds will constitute an essential part of any agreements resulting from Copenhagen, but there is also real potential for a low-carbon economy in this country and in my region. My right hon. Friend mentioned the trade talks. Has any thought been given to such issues as reducing VAT in the eurozone and reducing tariffs for low-carbon products for the benefit of our country, Europe and developing countries?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Huge progress can be made towards a low-carbon economy. In particular, as countries emerge from recession, they can invest in the low-carbon technologies of the future. Europe has agreed to sponsor and help to finance carbon capture and storage. It is important that we have some of the demonstration plants, and we are trying hard to ensure that Britain has a number of them for future years. He is also right to suggest that we should consider how we can do more to promote low-carbon goods and services, and that is certainly one of the items that will be discussed at Copenhagen.
We made it clear that the existing level of support for environmental projects in the overseas development aid budget was about 10 per cent., and that we would not go beyond that. The money that we are putting towards climate change is therefore additional. I hope that all parties will feel able to agree to that, because otherwise poor countries will find that what they are doing for development has been cut so that they can finance new investments in the environment. I do not think that all parties have yet reached that view, but I hope that they will reach the same view as us.
The Prime Minister said that the protocol relating to the charter of fundamental rights for the Czech Republic would be attached to the next accession treaty. Would he like to hazard a guess as to which country will be next to accede, and when that might take place?
An accession treaty for Croatia is currently the subject of negotiations. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) will reflect on the fact that he would want that to be put to a referendum as well, because it will include aspects related to the protocol. I understand that he would have to advocate a yes vote, because he is in favour of Croatia’s joining the European Union.
Does the Prime Minister accept that what he is proposing is effectively to bring the treaty into force on the basis of an unenforceable political deal? Does he accept that that simply adds to the cynicism that people should feel about this entire process, and that we therefore need not only to eradicate the false promises but to have a referendum in any event?
The hon. Gentleman is now in the mainstream of the Conservative party. His policies in favour of withdrawing and relegating the European Union’s relationship with Britain are well known. I must say to him, however, that when the new treaty was drawn up and agreed, the first words of the communiqué were that the constitutional concept had been abandoned. He should recognise that the Lisbon treaty met all our negotiating requirements, and that that is why we were able to recommend it to the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister is right to emphasise the leadership given by the European Union over many years in confronting global warming and reducing emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases. May I plead with him to continue his unremitting efforts to ensure that, after the Copenhagen conference on climate change, there will indeed be another protocol to follow the one from Kyoto?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been one of the leaders in strengthening our relationships with the European Union. During the coming week I shall be meeting Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and then Mr. Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, so that we can move forward our negotiations for a climate change deal in Copenhagen.
Britain is determined to do everything that we can to make a deal in Copenhagen possible, and it was our original proposal on finance that has commended itself to the European Union. We will continue to press forward to ensure that we make the maximum possible progress to secure a deal at Copenhagen.
One of the reasons why we are in Afghanistan is, I think, to help to slow down and preferably stop the flow of heroin on to our streets, which causes so much misery and crime, but I believe that that flow is still very fast indeed. Can the Prime Minister give us some sort of progress report, and hopefully some optimism?
The number of poppy-free provinces in Afghanistan is, I think, now 20. The hon. Gentleman may have looked at the initiative we undertook in Helmand this year. Under the Department for International Development, we persuaded large numbers—30,000, I think—of farmers to switch from poppy production to wheat, and they have, of course, benefited from the high price of wheat during the course of the year. We are proposing to do even more next year in persuading more farmers to resist the temptations of growing poppies and at the same time getting them support so that they can grow grain. This is one of the best ways to advance our policy to rid the parts of Afghanistan for which we have some responsibility of as much of the heroin trade as possible.
May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the issue of the use of hydrofluorocarbons? It is essential that we deal with them alongside dealing with CO2 as part of a Europe-wide agreement. I urge my right hon. Friend to discuss this matter with the Secretaries of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and for Energy and Climate Change to ensure that we get Europe-wide agreement on a reduction. I do not expect my right hon. Friend to give a detailed answer on that now, but I do want to draw it to his attention and urge him to discuss it.
Is it not typical of the Conservative party that its Members only ask questions about personalities? The position of the presidency of the Council has not yet been set up and the Lisbon treaty has not yet gone through. Once the Lisbon treaty has gone through and has been ratified—as I hope it will be—we can discuss these matters.
How much confidence has the Prime Minister got in an Afghan army armed and trained by the west, as the mujaheddin once were, and their commitment to lay down their lives and slaughter fellow Afghans in the name of a corrupt President who has just rigged his re-election?
The Afghan forces that have fought alongside the British forces in recent years have been brave, determined and professional. The problem is that we do not have enough of them. We wish the Afghan forces, Afghan police and Afghan security personnel to be able to take responsibility for the management of law and order in the provinces and then throughout Afghanistan. That is what we are trying achieve, and in order to do so we will need to help train Afghan forces. So far as the rest of the question is concerned, we know there are problems of corruption in Afghanistan and we know they have got to be dealt with. The key step is to persuade the Government of Afghanistan that they must take these problems even more seriously.
May I bring the Prime Minister back to the issue of enlargement? Does he agree that the accession of not only Croatia, but other Balkan countries and Turkey, could help to bring about success in respect of many of the items in the discussion that he has reported to us today, such as energy supply, the fight against terrorism and, above all, making Europe a more safe and secure continent for all of us?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The only difficulty his party faces is that, because there are 27 countries in the European Union, we have had to have a new treaty so we can deal with the institutional mechanisms necessary for the governance of the EU. I therefore hope that at the same time as supporting enlargement, the hon. Gentleman will support the measures that are necessary to make enlargement work.
I warmly support the Prime Minister’s determination to achieve an ambitious Copenhagen conference on climate change. With that in mind, will the growth in the consumption of animal wheat be on the agenda, as it significantly adds to CO2 emissions? If it is not, will my right hon. Friend allow me to invite scientists from Teesside, who will prove to him that it is essential that the item is on the Copenhagen agenda?
My hon. Friend puts her case with great force. I am told that livestock is on the climate change agenda. We will have to make progress in a large number of areas. It was mentioned earlier that we have to make progress in the maritime and aviation areas, and we must also make progress in deforestation—or, rather, reforestation. All these issues are part of the climate change agreement.
The Prime Minister made one passing reference to allied troop contributions to Afghanistan. May I ask him whether he asked the Germans and other allies who already have troops there when they are planning to deploy them forward to the sharp end?
Before the original election in Afghanistan, I and others were party to persuading a number of countries to send additional troops to Afghanistan—that happened in a number of cases within the European Union. The issue now, which was raised by the McChrystal report, is what numbers different countries will be prepared to offer following the elections. That is a matter for discussion at NATO in the next few days. I believe not only that we will have proposals arising from McChrystal very soon, but that we have already taken the right decision, which is that we are prepared to put additional forces in, subject to the conditions that I laid down in Parliament: that Afghan forces are available to be trained, and that we have an agreement among the coalition.
We are doing a great deal to co-operate with the Pakistan security forces, now that they are prepared to take action, not just in the areas where they have been tackling the Pakistan Taliban, but in areas near to where al-Qaeda is based. We are also giving the Pakistan authorities help when there are displaced people as a result of the conflict, and our overseas development aid to Pakistan is being raised for those areas of Pakistan that have been most susceptible to these activities. We are giving more money, in particular, to help the education of young children in the northern areas of Pakistan.
Does the Prime Minister think that people would be more likely to believe what he has to say about matters such as climate change if he had kept his promise to have a referendum on the EU constitution—now renamed the “Lisbon treaty”? Could he tell us what his moral compass tells him about that broken promise?
I reported to the House that the constitutional concept had been abandoned as a result of the talks that led to the treaty. The House voted on this issue of a referendum on the treaty itself. The Conservative party voted in favour of a referendum on this treaty. The Leader of the Opposition gave a “cast-iron guarantee” that he would have a referendum. We must also be clear that the Opposition have voted that they wish to withdraw from the social chapter and European employment legislation, but for that they would need the support of 26 other members of the European Union. From what I saw when I was in Brussels this week, there was very little support for the position of the Conservative leader.
I sleep very well at night. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that it would be in Britain’s national interests to have a former Prime Minister of our country as president of the European Council. I think that the Conservatives are making a mistake if they want to send out a message to the rest of Europe that they do not want a British person to hold this job. Presumably they want someone from another country to hold this job—presumably someone who also holds a federalist position in Europe. The Conservatives should go back to the drawing board on this and think again.